A Critique of Those Who Want Christ Without the Church – A Meditation on Dorothy Day’s Love of the Church

The video at the bottom is of Archbishop Timothy Dolan speaking on Dorothy Day. It is a clip of a longer sermon you can see here: Archbishop Dolan on Dorothy Day

In the Sermon the Archbishop speaks of Dorothy Day’s love for the Church. He remarks that there are many people today who want Christ without the Church. For Dorothy Day and for us: No can do. Christ is found with his Church: warts and all, sinners and saints, even me, Oh Lord! Jesus Christ was found among sinners, such that it scandalized many. He was crucified between two thieves. He was found in very questionable company. Do you get it? You won’t find Christ by walking away from the company he keeps.

The hatred of the Church is growing in our culture and many of the ring leaders claim to know Christ and think they can find him only in purer air, a room of their own choosing. But Christ is found where he is found. The Pharisees expected to find the Messiah on their terms. But Jesus was found where he was found. He was not from the educated in Jerusalem, but of the peasants in Galilee. He spoke with a Galilean “hick” accent and walked among the poor, the nobodies,  the sinners, the uninformed and unenlightened.

Today, the menu is a little different. In Jesus’ time it was a religious aristocracy that sneered at his followers. Today, the world is secular and those who sneer see believers as simple-minded, unscientific, unenlightened and intolerant. And we are sinners to be sure. Some of the charges against us are true. Actual sinners are we. The Church is a hospital for sick people who need a doctor. Some of the other charges of our sinfulness are less deserved: that we are collectively intolerant, hateful, bigoted, etc.

But despite all this, I know by faith that this is where Christ is found. Those who want Jesus without his Church not only seek him in vain, they risk reinventing him altogether. He is found where he is found.

Dorothy Day’s Witness and help – But what of the Church’s imperfections? In the video Archbishop Dolan reminds us: Ecclesia semper reformanda  (The Church is always reforming). It’s people like Dorothy Day (and many of you) through whom God works this work. Dorothy Day was very sober about the Church’s imperfections and spoke of them often. She was a prophet and true prophets know how to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable (and we are all in both categories from time to time).

What I most like about Dorothy Day is that I knew she loved the Church and because of that I trust her. I have found that, in order to stretch my boundaries and be truly challenged, I need to trust my teachers and leaders. It’s people I can trust who lead me to stretch my horizons. Knowing that Dorothy Day so loved the Church, the liturgy and the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament makes be trust her judgment. She, like Jesus, was not easily categorized. She will not simply conform to earthly categories for she had heard from heaven.

I’d like to say a little more of Dorothy in weeks to come on the blog for I think she is one who can help get both wings of the Church flying together. There is a tendency for the Church to divide out between the moral issues, and the social issues. But it takes two wings to fly, and Dorothy Day is one of those who show how it can be done. Allow me a little time to get a few thoughts together. And some of you might also point me in the right direction with suggestions.

For today simply this reflection: Dorothy Day loved the Church. And any true reformer of the Church must love her and her Lord and Spouse, Jesus.

Some of my favorite Dorothy Day quotes are:

  1. Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.
  2. I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.
  3. Men are beginning to realize that they are not individuals but persons in society, that man [who is] alone is weak and adrift, that he must seek strength in common action.
  4. Together with the Works of Mercy, feeding, clothing and sheltering our brothers, we must indoctrinate.
  5. We are eating while there is famine in the world.
  6. We cannot build up the idea of the apostolate of the laity without the foundation of the liturgy.
  7. Tradition! We scarcely know the word anymore. We are afraid to be either proud of our ancestors or ashamed of them. We scorn nobility in name and in fact. We cling to a bourgeois mediocrity….
  8. I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least
  9. You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know.
  10. Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.
  11. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.
  12. My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.
  13. Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.
  14. Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.
  15. Once a priest told us that no one gets up in the pulpit without promulgating a heresy. He was joking, of course, but what I suppose he meant was the truth was so pure, so holy, that it was hard to emphasize one aspect of the truth without underestimating another, that we did not see things as a whole, but through a glass darkly, as St. Paul said.
  16. The final word is love.

Enjoy this brief reflection by Archbishop Dolan.

24 Replies to “A Critique of Those Who Want Christ Without the Church – A Meditation on Dorothy Day’s Love of the Church”

  1. Thank you, I appreciated this. I come across many people who think to go to church is unnecessary and now I have an answer to give them. Keep up the good work – you will stay blessed!

  2. “# 8. I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”

    This ones over my head-help!

      1. I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least
        what does this mean ? i can’t understand it , plz explanations

  3. This is my favorite Dorothy Day quote. When I was young I spent the longest month of my life (cowardly little person that I am) answering letters for her at the CW on 1st. and 1st. in NY. My impression was that she was the REAL THING when it comes to sanctity. I have never been able to live up to those ideals-I probably haven’t wanted to enough-but I have never been the same. Jean

    This is that quote by Dorothy Day. I think it’s from The
    Long Loneliness.

    “Compassion, it is a word meaning “to suffer with.” If we
    all carry a little of the burden, it will be lightened. If
    we share in the suffering of the world, then some will not
    have to endure so heavy an affliction. It evens out. What
    you do here in New York, in Harrisburg, helps those in
    China, India, South Africa, Europe, [and] Russia, as well
    as in the oasis where you are. You may think you are
    alone. But we are members one of another. We are children
    of God together.”

  4. “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least”
    I had to read this several times to let this sink in. Wow. Seems I go a lotta lovin’ to do!

    Thanks for this reflection.

  5. I love to see the Princes of our Church speak! A great clip of Archbishop Dolan, so much for me to reflect on, especially being one of the Churches most pustulant boils on the Body of Christ. I very much look forward to seeing more on categorization, divisiveness and the two wings of one bird concept. I see this concept in play everywhere I look both inside and outside the Church; ie; Liberal/Traditionalist, Marian/Charismatic, Democrat/Republican. Each wing flaps furiously hoping to change the flight path of the bird.

    Reflecting on this dualistic bird, I know that God is Trinitarian and I see this reflected in His Church. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church is the Word, Magisterium and Tradition. It seems to me, no matter what the analogy, if any of three components are ignored or abandoned, flap all you want, the flight path of the bird is on a crash course and can’t be corrected. I’m still working this concept out, and as always, I’m sure your future articles will help!

    1. I figured out part of what’s been bugging me about the two wings of one bird analogy I see so overused in arguments. lately. The third part that is always missing from the analogy is reference to tail feathers. I suppose flight is not impossible without tail feathers, but the fight path can’t be controlled without them. The most surprising thing I learned about the third component of flight feathers, the tail feathers, is that most tails contain twelve feathers.


      ‘The tail feathers, called retrices, act as brakes and a rudder, controlling the orientation of the flight. Most birds have 12 tail feathers.’

  6. This is a good blog post for today, because today is the birthday of Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island. Stevenson rejected Christianity. Just as some atheists will use this man as a means to “advertise” the sin of atheism, so we ought to be working hard to remind Christians and all men that they are made for the Kingdom of God, which is in Jesus Christ, Who is of one flesh with the Catholic Church, the seed and beginning of the Kingdom of God.

  7. Nice reflection!

    He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother. What God has joined together let no man separate! St.Paul said “I persecuted the Church of God”. But the Lord said “Why are you persecuting Me”. Truly, the Lord and His bride are one.

  8. I entered the Catholic Church when I was about the same age as Dorothy Day when she entered the Church. For me, none of my own ways of making decisions was working. I investigated the Catholic Church and bought everything immediately..studied what I did not know and have never regretted my decision. Her quotes are so wonderful. I read one and love it and read another and love it even more. She truly reflects my own thoughts….Patricia in St. Louis, MO

  9. My thoughts exactly, Reginaldus. How much did she really “love” the Church? Why is it that my ‘gut’ says otherwise? NOT JUDGING her soul, so please don’t anyone slam me w/ that tedious, worn out argument about being so ‘judgmental.’ What I would like to know is, why is it that so many Catholics I know, who ‘hold her up so high,’ are from leftist organizations, Call to Action (which Bhp. Bruskewitz condemned) and are constantly ‘at war’ w/ the Church, Her teachings, doctrines and dogma and clamor for Her to ‘change?’ They all talk a big talk about the ‘death penalty’ and yet ‘cringe’ when abortion is mentioned and rage about it being on the same par, which of course it is not! Why is it that they’re all about ‘the poor’ and yet don’t think Terri Schiavo was murdered? Was she not ‘poor’ enough? Are babies not ‘poor’ enough? Terri was starved to death and one “Catholic” I know thought it was best that she ‘die with dignity.’ How is withholding food,nourishment and water from someone not murder, not painful, and ‘dignified?’ Anyone? Buehler?

    1. Susie:

      It sounds like you need to find yourself a better class of Dorothy Day devotees. You might start with Archbishop Dolan.

  10. Dorothy Day was a dyed-in-the-wool communist all her life. She was a radical progressive who embraced every aspect of communism in her youth and only substituted the atheist with the theist later in life. Her belief in and support of communism never changed, Just her motivations to bring it about did. It really bothers me that so many Catholics in America revere her. Above quotes 2-5 are telling enough.

    1. If above quotes 2-5 are telling enough, then Jesus sure told a lot of parables about communists.

  11. I have to go with this one, as well. So simple, yet so profound.

    8.I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least

  12. The catholic organisation calls itself The Church. Actally, Christs church is the sum total of the born again, even though they dont have a headquarters or a big building and uniforms. Hardly any of them know many others. But its misleading for the catholic org to refer to itself as The Church. Jesus said..by their fruits shall ye know them. The writer of this article tries , at first, to sanitize the moral bankruptcy of the catholic clergy. Yes, Jesus came to heal the sick, thats why you found him with them, but they became whole. They didnt stay sick

    1. Well actually Wayne you have it backwards. It is misleading for other ecclesial communions to call themselves the “Church” since the Church is built upon Peter. Ubi Petrus ibi Eccelesia (Where Peter is, there is the Church). Hence only the Catholic Church and here uniate branches can really claim the title Church.

  13. I am a 50 something Catholic convert soon to take communion and I too am troubled by Ms. Day’s apparent Communist roots. I came across a copy of the Catholic Worker newspaper 5 or 6 years ago at Mary Mount College in DC and I was absolutely shocked at the leftist writing I found there. As I recall there was an article about a church in the South West that was sheltering illegal immigrants passing through the area. I was so angered that I undertook a study of the papers history and of course discovered Dorothy Day and her communist background.

    I hold compassion for those who risk all and leave home for the chance at a better future. But it serves no one to have an “open border”. The Mexican government has little or no impetus for change as long as there are millions of poor leaving the country and sending dollars home. And the American tax payer can little afford to the cost of services to those poor in the immigrant communities where they settle.

    Ms. Day spoke of a “Distributive Economy” where all people have ownership in the source of their livelihood. But over the years I have found that people are differently endowed and no matter the difficulty, some will strive to better themselves while others will not. The truth is that Capitalism and Democracy have lifted more people out of ignorance and poverty than any other set of systems in history. Just look at the changes brought about over the centuries since the slow fall of the Monarchies of Europe.

    I am not surprised at the support some in the Catholic Community give Dorothy Day; however I think that upon closer inspection her ideas are found wanting. And I certainly don’t think her actions warrant Sainthood.

  14. Who are you to tell me where God is? If nature is my church (and not a building full of pretenders) then I will find God where he speaks to me. Good for you…you find God at church…don’t tell me how to worship.

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